C. L. R. James

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The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression. For the one aims at perpetuating resented injustice, the other is merely a momentary passion soon appeased.

Cyril Lionel Robert James (4 January 190119 May 1989) was a journalist, and a prominent socialist theorist and writer.


The Black Jacobins (1938)[edit]

Page numbers refer to Second Edition from Vintage Books (1963)
  • Christopher Columbus landed first in the New World at the island of San Salvador, and after praising God enquired urgently for gold.
    • p. 3.
  • There are and always will be some who, ashamed of the behavior of their ancestors, try to prove that slavery wasn't so bad after all, that its evils and its cruelty were the exaggerations of propagandists and not the habitual lot of the slaves. Men will say (and accept) anything in order to foster national pride or soothe a troubled conscience.
    • p. 13.
  • The rich are only defeated when running for their lives.
    • p. 77.
  • From their French masters, [the slaves] had known rape, torture, degradation, and, at the slightest provocation, death. They returned in kind. For two centuries the higher civilization had shown them that power was used for wreaking your will on those whom you controlled. Now that they held power they did as they had been taught.
    • p. 88.
  • The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression. For the one aims at perpetuating resented injustice, the other is merely a momentary passion soon appeased.
    • pp. 88-89.
  • Compared with what their masters had done to them in cold blood, what [the slaves] did was negligible, and they were spurred on by the ferocity with which the whites in Le Cap treated all slave prisoners who fell into their hands.
    • p. 89
  • The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental.
    • p. 283.
  • If you are not their slaves, you are rebels.
    • James is quoting Toussaint Louverture's speech to his troops--most of whom, like Toussaint himself, were former slaves. The "their" refers to the French imperialists, p. 307
  • Dissimulation is the refuge of the slave.
    • p. 334

Beyond a Boundary (1963)[edit]

Page numbers from Duke University Press reprint, 2013
  • It seemed like a classic ploy by the conquerors: games, particularly so restrained and ritualistic a game as cricket, could be imposed upon the colonies to tame them, to herd them into the psychic boundaries where they would learn the values and ethics of the colonist. But once given the opportunity to play the master's game, to excel at it, the colonials gained a self-esteem that would eventually free them.
    • Introduction by Robert Lipsyte (p. XIX)
  • That James could not accept automatically that these athletes were the greedy spawn of an exploitative system is the positive proof of his own liberation and oppression through sports. He was ennobled and crippled by cricket; he reached beyond his boundary but would always have a blind spot.
    • Introduction by Robert Lipsyte (p. XX)
  • Respectability was not an ideal, it was an armour.
    • p. 8
  • Before very long I acquired a discipline for which the only name is Puritan. I never cheated, I never appealed for a decision unless I thought the batsman was out.
    • p. 26
  • These are no random reminiscences. ... The Negroid population of the West Indies is composed of a large percentage of actually black people. ... Then there are the browns, intermediates, who cannot by any stretch of imagination pass as white, but who will not go one inch towards mixing with people darker than themselves.
    • p. 51
  • The people most affected by this are people of the middle class who, lacking the hard contact with realities of the masses and unable to attain to the freedoms of a leisured class, are more than all types of people given to trivial divisions and subdivisions of social rank and precedence.
    • p. 52
  • So it was that I became one of those dark men whose 'surest sign of ... having arrived is the fact that he keeps company with people lighter in complexion than himself'.
    • p. 53
  • Here, on the cricket field if nowhere else, all men in the island are equal, and we are the best men in the island.
    • p. 55
  • I do not want to get liberated from them [memories of racialism]. I would consider liberation from them a grievous loss, irreparable.
    • p. 59
  • Trotsky had said that the workers were deflected from politics by sports. With my past I simply could not accept that. I was British and the history of those decades in Britain was very familiar to me, both the politics and the sport. The organisational drive for sport had come from Britain.
    • p. 153
  • I could, of course, wait for the Conservative Party or the Labour Party to organise a sample poll. A poll on art. A sample poll! A sample poll can investigate only what the pollsters know, and it cannot do even that properly.
    • p. 153-154
  • The first recorded date in European history is 776 B.C., the date of the first Olympic Games.
    • p. 154
  • The Greeks believed that an athlete who had represented his community at a national competition, and won, had thereby conferred a notable distinction on his city. His victory was a testament to the quality of the citizens. All the magnates of the city welcomed him home in civic procession. They broke down a part of the wall for him to enter: a city which could produce such citizens had no need of walls to defend it. For the rest of his life he ate at the public expense.
    • p. 156
  • Dickens saw Victorian England always with the eyres of a pre-Victorian. His ideal England was the England of Hazlitt and of Pickwick.
    • p. 161
  • Cricket is an art, not a bastard or a poor relation, but a full member of the community. (...) Cricket is first and foremost a dramatic spectacle. It belong with the theatre, ballet, opera and dance.
    • p. 196
  • It is an historical commonplace that social explosions take place when most of the fundamental causes of dissatisfaction have been removed and only a few remain. This is the result of a feeling of power.
    • p. 229
  • When I confessed I was angry, even sympathizers balked at this.According to the code, anger should not intrude into cricket. I understood them well, I had been as foolish in my time. According to the colonial version of the code, you were to show yourself a 'true sport' by not making a fuss about the most barefaced discrimination because it was't cricket. Not me any longer. To that I had said, was saying, my final good-bye.
    • p. 241
  • There can be raw pain and bleeding where so many thousands see the inevitable ups and downs of only a game.
  • Cricket is first and foremost a dramatic spectacle. It belongs with theatre, ballet, opera and the dance.

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